A student's experience of the Occupational Therapy course

"I find with the placements you learn an awful lot - suddenly you get a clearer picture of what the job actually involves."

Andrew - Occupational Therapy

Why Occupational Therapy?

I had worked as a civil servant for 17 years and redundancy packages became available. I just assumed that I was going to work there till the end of my days. I started thinking do I want to carry on doing this job for the next 15-20 years or do I want to do something different?

Through my job I was aware of what occupational therapists did and it sounded a really interesting career to get into and so I applied for the course and was offered the place. It was local so just seemed the best thing to do.

I did one day’s work experience with an occupational therapist; so I had a little bit of experience and I found it really interesting.

Paying for it

I was initially a bit anxious to know how the redundancy money I was getting was going to affect my bursary. However, was surprised to get a reasonable bursary because I’ve got a mortgage and family, it’s certainly been very useful. I’ve got a Saturday job as well.

The university experience

It was a bit daunting coming back to university as I wasn’t aware of how many mature students were going to be on the course but there is a real good spread of ages, lots of people with different abilities, from different backgrounds - a really interesting bunch of people.

It is a good course and I’m studying with a nice set of people, but there are not many men on the course, which is a bit of a shame, as there is no real reason why men can’t do this. There is a lot of scope out there for male occupational therapists as I found out on my last placement. It was an all female team and they were really quite happy and appreciative to have a male student coming. They have a lot of male service users so they found that I made quite a difference to them.

Learning experience

One of the things I do find about the course is how much of it is computer based. You do have to be au fait with computers. I am still one of the old fashioned types - finger typing so it does take me a while but it is just something you’ve got to do, you’ve got to move with the times.

We use the Occupational Therapy Resource Centre at Glenside quite a lot. We did manual handling just before we went on our first placement, we were shown the hoist and what it does. Also you get to use the other rooms for different aspects of OT as it replicates what you could be involved in out in practice. We’ve also got a clay session coming up, that will help to see what it was like being involved in a session, rather than just leading a session.

One of the best things about the course is we are not just looking at one area of OT at any one time, so that makes it more interesting. We also get visiting lecturers come and do talks on particular areas. To see a different person and get a different perspective on things is very useful.

Placement experience

So far I’ve had placements in learning disabilities, one in neuro rehabilitation, which is as a result of people that have had some sort of brain injury. My next placement is going to be in an assertive outreach mental health team, so that should be an interesting one. They are all quite different areas that I have been involved in. I’ve been lucky as I feel I have got quite a breadth of experience from my placements so far. Each theory session has progressed nicely into that area of placement so it’s all working out quite well.

I did enjoy the neuro rehabilitation placement and they have in fact offered me some paid work over the holidays and an ongoing Saturday job. So I now work as an OT assistant which I am really enjoying because it’s giving me hands on experience of running a group.

Advice for others

My advice for anyone thinking of coming back to university is that you have to give yourself a chance. It was hard to get myself back up to the level I needed to be at. In the first few weeks I was doing lots of work which was a bit of a struggle. You need to be computer literate and you need to have access to a computer. I’m one of the older ones on the course but I found I have been accepted by the younger ones. It has been quite intense so far and I have had to change the way I worked.

The future

Once graduated I will be back to the normal 9 to 5, 5 days a week which will be strange.  I am looking forward to being given the chance to practice my new skills. I’m toying with the idea of working part time somewhere and trying to run a few little things of my own on a couple of days a week, like a community centre, based on my interests, where I would do activities with service users. It will be a challenge, but anything is a possibility for me now.

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